Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has warned religious leaders against inciting their followers ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Akeredolu sent the warning to clerics on Wednesday while delivering a lecture titled “Nigeria: The Politics Of Religion In A Transitional Society” at the 1st year Monograph of Memorial Lecture and Celebration of Life of Professor Bankole Olusiji Oke, held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Oyo State capital.
The governor stressed that the solution to the challenges faced in the country will not be found in the faiths of individuals, and noted that a person’s religious persuasion is based on personal conviction.
“The manipulative skills of politicians as being currently put to use will aggravate an already bad situation,” he said.
Governor Akeredolu explained that the clamour for the restructuring of the polity and agitation for power shift must gain prominence over the debate on representation based on religion.
The statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Richard Olatunde, read, “Those who overheat the polity for personal aggrandizement should lend their voices to the issue of resource generation and control by the federating units.
“As the country prepares for another transition in 2023… our people must reject any overweening cravings which may impact negatively on the polity. The current noises made on the need to have people occupy offices on the basis of religion is not only dangerous but, annoyingly, does not portray politicians as those who are interested in the public good.
“Religion has always been a weapon of manipulation in a transitional society. Religious leaders rely on the gullibility of their followers to participate, actively, in politics, while presenting a façade of spirituality. A country in the process of evolution cannot afford to be distracted by the business of religion.
“Granted that it is expected of political gladiators to magnify even the most irrelevant of issues to score cheap political points, it is profitable for the leaders of thought, especially religious leaders, to act decently. The contestation for a political office and fight for relevance must not be used as an excuse to mislead the people.
“Most reasonable people will question the economic logic which propels a country, purportedly practising Federalism, to run a monolithic economy. Let all those who agitate for representation do so on the basis of economic participation first. This should be the fundamental consideration.
“The warped mentality which predisposes the elites, both the clergy and political, to always indulge in permutation on the expectation of largesse sharing is deplorable.”
Akeredolu also said that the controversy surrounding the choice of the presidential candidate of the ruling APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who picked Senator Kashim Ibrahim Shettima, his fellow Muslim, as his Vice-Presidential candidate, is needless.
He said, “Those who spearhead this apparent mischief either ignore or are oblivious of the fact that the position of the Vice President, as provided in the 1999 Constitution, as amended, is innocuous. The occupier of that office can only act as directed by the President who wields the real executive power.
“It appears that these protests are symptomatic of the level of distrust among the members of the political class who will do anything to grab power. The brazen incursion of religion into the political arena portends danger for the polity. Quality representation had absolutely nothing to do with the belief of a political office holder.
“The leadership of the two popular religions, Christianity and Islam, must avoid making inflammatory statements capable of causing chaos in the polity. This is the time all patriotic citizens must speak with one voice on the need for economic emancipation of the regions. We must begin to seek ways to remove the odious shackles of dependence which has almost run the whole country aground.
“We should all condemn and seek to end a system which promotes indolence. We must encourage all parts of the country to contribute to economic development. We should all tap into our respective areas of comparative advantage as it was in the First Republic.
“And, consequently, we cannot afford to make the mistake of electing our leaders on mendacious and sentimental premises. Just as no reasonable person will choose to be driven by a driver on account of ethnicity and religion, only the competent aspirants with manifest capacity should be considered.
“A heterogeneous society must have its affairs controlled by knowledgeable leaders with proven records of public service. Motivational speeches and copious quotes from the Holy writs can only inspire. The job of the President of a country in distress requires capacity, forthrightness and courage.”